Don Drummond was admitted a number of times to Bellevue Mental Hospital–sometimes at his own doing, other times at Her Majesty’s Pleasure, namely the last time. The song, “This Man is Back,” was composed by Drummond after one of his stints in the hospital. It was released in 1961 for Coxsone Dodd’s All Stars label.
I recently came across this article in the Star Newspaper from May 13, 1962. It is titled, “The return of Don Drummond,” and it reads, “Ossie’s Lucas Inn, 15 Mountain View Avenue, seems the ideal spot for all jazz fans this afternoon with the presentation of a terrific afternoon of live jazz, featuring the return of Drummond on trombone. Drummond, whose skill on the trombone is well known, will be playing with the Carlos Malcolm Conbo,Carlos also producing sounds on the T-Bone. In fact, the session,which starts at 4:00 p.m.,will mark the return of another Jamaican jazz wizard, Tommy McCook (tenor sax) who returned last week from engagements in Nassau. Other musicians in the session are Baba Motta, piano, Taddy Mowatt,bass, and Carl McLeod, drums.”
A Star Newspaper article on Friday, May 18, 1962 previewed a subsequent McCook show with the title, “Tommy McCook for Lucas Inn.” It read, “Tommy McCook, Jamaican tenor saxophonist who has been creating quite a sensation since his recent return from Nassau,will be playing tonight and tomorrow night at Lucas Inn, Mountain View Avenue. In recent weeks, Lucas Inn has been a spot for “the most” jazz fans and Sunday last Tommy brought the house down when he appeared on the session, which included names as Don Drummond, trombone, Rolan Alphanso [sic. Roland Alphonso], tenor saxophone, Baba Motta, piano, and Billy Cooke, trumpet, among others. Tommy has been busy preparing some new sounds for his engagements. He sounds off tonight at 9:00.”
The past two weeks I have taken a break from the seven-part series I uncovered in the Star Newspaper called Experiences of an Inmate in a Mental Hospital to devote my blog to Rico Rodriguez. Now I return to that series with part two, which is titled, I Join the Working Party by Christopher W. Rowe. This article ran on Thursday, April 20, 1961. Of particular note in this article, I think, is the identification of the medication injection problem at Bellevue (I discussed in the first part of this series why this is definitely Bellevue that Rowe writes of, although it is never named) since I believe this is the cause of Don Drummond’s death, medication administered improperly or with an incomprehension of the effects. Also of note is that the D ward is where murderers were kept. This is where Don Drummond was, as I’ve written in my book, Don Drummond: The Genius and Tragedy of the World’s Greatest Trombonist. Many officials who were related to the situation told me this, and here is a discussion of that ward. A final note, the revelation Rowe makes about the overflowing sewers and unsanitary conditions.
Here is part two of Experiences of an Inmate in a Mental Hospital by Chrisopher W. Rowe:
I join the working party I was made to join a working party for more advanced convalescent patients. I was sent to the tailor shop. This consisted of a different routine. We left the ward at about 6:25 AM for the dining hall where we were served early coffee and bread, the same six ounces. After that we left for our working places, some to field parties, some to sanitary gangs, some as messengers, some to the carpenter’s shop, some blacksmiths, some tinsmiths, some to the doctor’s quarters and the matron’s also. My party went to the tailor’s shop. A few would be claimed for the kitchen from about five in the morning and some for the dining hall to wash tables and dishes. In the tailor’s shop I started to make buttonholes on shirts pants and nightgowns made by other patients until I was given a trial at the machines, one foot machine and a few hand ones. I was not new to tailoring so was able to make everything made there, from a shirt, nightgown, trousers, sheets and pillowcases.
At 11 o’clock we working patients were made to be in the dining hall; there we were served a pint of porridge, cornmeal, and half of bread and a bit of cheese, then after that returning to our repetitive working places to carry on until one o’clock at which time we joined with those from the ward that eat in the dining hall. At five o’clock we finished the day with the same route, after that to bed. On Sundays at ten in the mornings a party from the four main wards O, G, B, and N, go to church which is situated near the female division which also sends a party of female patients to attend. The party of male patients would be under the charge of the head nurse or chief charge from N Ward, which ward even though one is the smallest is always the boss in such things, the reasons being that their patients are much better behaved and likewise it carries a lesser amount of attendants so at times the entire ward is made to turn out. (Since they would be short of attendants none would be available to remain with patients in the ward, so all patients about 50 would join the various parties).
At about two o’clock or just after the mid-day meal they have what is called a walking party where the patients go and sit down out on the lawn nearby the church for about two hours. This party partly comprises the same church goers with no exceptions. This walking party is carried on every evening from day to day except if rain or if they are badly short of attendants. I was a member of all the parties. On Tuesday mornings there would be another party known as sea-bathing party who would be called about nine in the morning from the four main wards to go down to the sea and bathe and return at about half past ten.
This took place on three days per week, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, at the same hour every morning. There is a dental party on Tuesdays for those patients with bad teeth. They would be warned on the Monday to be taken to the dentist Tuesday evening about two o’clock whose office would be at the female division.
He would first treat a party of female patients for attending to the males. The system is for him to start there on the females a long while before so by the time the males reach he would be on the tail end. On public holidays most working patients are given a treat together with some well-behaved ones picked from the various wards, of bun and lemonade or at times cream and cake also candy. I was there on the first of August 1934 on which day we were served bun and lemonade.
A patient that is open to be visited receives the caution wherever he happens to be whether in the ward or out in a party whether working party or otherwise. The visitor attends to the waiting room whose officer has a book with the muster of the various wards. The visitor gives the name of the patient he or she wants to see. The waiting attendant looks it up until he finds it then writes out a bit of paper with the patient’s name as follows – John Brown to be seen – he hands this to a patient orderly or runner who takes it to the ward indicated and there he knocks at the door until it is opened by an attendant who forwards the note to the chief in charge or chief charge of the ward who calls out for the patient.
If he is in the ward he is easily found; if not the books are searched to see what party he is in unless he is not connected to that ward. If he is in a party they tend for him right away, a visit being termed a dispatch or emergency. All parties are guided by books from the sea bathing, church, walking, dental and also another party called dressing party, (patients with small sores but not serious enough for them to be sent to hospital and detained wards).
Canteen These are taken to hospital where the sores are bathed in warm water and dressed and made to return to their respective wards. There is a ward known as the Detention Ward or Limbo where are placed murderers, men who are arrested and tried in the courts but deemed insane. There is a tuberculosis ward, another wards known as sea ward where patients suffering from dysentery or fever are made to stay. There is also a private patients ward were 21 shillings per week is paid for the patients to stay by his relatives.
There is also a canteen attached to the institution where if money is lodged in the office for you, it can be utilised by drawing things. They are such as biscuits, aerated water, bathing soap, cigarettes etc. The process of drawing things is to lead the head nurse sign a chit or voucher for whatever you require within the amount lodged your account which he in turn hands to the canteen officer, fulfills the written request, which is handed to the patient.
After being there for about two months I was examined by Dr. Myers who was second in command at the time. He in turn sent me to the medical superintendent, discharged me to my father, who had come for me. That was 23 August 1934 and I was made a free person once more. It was more a prison than a hospital.
On a patients being considered fit to be recommended to be discharged to return home he is first examined by the ward doctor who reports it and after that a more senior doctor who considers him fit to see the medical superintendent on examining the patient directs that he be made to go or not if he thinks fit.
The institution has the main office which is occupied by more doctors, a medical officer, and two others. Attached to it is the pay clerk’s office which comprises a cashier or chief storekeeper, chief clerk or assistant storekeeper, his senior assistant and paymaster. Nearby are the provision stores and clothing stores in which are things sent down by the tender board such as cloths to make clothing for patients, foodstuffs to be used in the kitchen, attendant uniform and all other things in such places.
The general muster of all the wards at the time was about 700 with a female division of about 200 making a total of about 900. This was in 1934. Now it has gone up to about two thousand.
Compulsory It also has a dispensary attended by a dispenser whole time in charge. His duties are to take the blood, test the patients, their saliva and using for the purpose of being tested. He is also in charge of the distribution of medicine to the various wards in the female division as well. A clinic is attached to the institution where revisiting psychiatric social worker gives injection in the lower arm. I was given one turned a sore that lasted me about a month. I had to get it bathe and dress. On the last Wednesdays of each month a check is made of all condemned thing such as patients clothing, bedding comprising of seats pillowcases old pillows, nightgown and old mattress case at times also brooms, old used hands, benches, tables, attendance clothings also chair, canvas cot that are destroyed whether by patient or worn out, are heaped up and placed before a man from the Kingston Public Works of not less than the grade of an assistant superintendent of works who sorts things to see if they are to be used furthermore to be condemned.
If marked off it is stamped condemned and replacements recommended to the management no matter what amounts condemned. It is called a board of… Condemned stock… A dosier from the office attendance to it and likewise represents the institution and … Who is also the assistant…
This institution carries the tailor shop, a carpenter shop, a tinsmith, a blacksmith, a plumber, a mason, a painter and a field party. All the working places are staffed with patients under the supervision of tradesmen attendants who are able to instruct the patients at the various trades.
At the field they weed grass with machete sharpened on grindstones. They also use hoe and pick axes at their carry-ons out the field where they plant garden pepper and the likes. The attendants clothing are made downtown but those of the patients are made in the tailor’s shop except in extreme cases then clothes would be sent out to a tailor in Kingston for him to make some. Mostly shirts and pants.
The carpenter shop produces benches, chairs, tables, do small repairs to doors of buildings like wards and storerooms etc. It is a more serious job the public works sends up the carpenters to do it. The painter does small paintings such as on canvas cots and canvas chairs. The Mason re-smooths any disrupted surface from time to time.
The plumber and the blacksmith are to see to it that all the pipes of the institution are in order both he and the blacksmith. The institution has a sewerage system which easily goes bad at times causing great inconveniences both at the male and female divisions. It is the duty of the tinsmith to both make and repair cans and pans also large tin pots used in the kitchen for cooking, or ordinary containers. It is not unusual to see sewers choked and running over for days until the plumbing party reaches that section and places it in order.
Condemned In the hospital or admission ward there is compulsory bathing on Saturdays which is also clothes changing day. In the main wards it is just the same compulsory bathing on Saturdays and change of clothing. They are the patient is given his hands filled with soft soap which he uses to lather his skin under the shower then washes it off. There are about three taps in a bathroom which is occupied the entire Saturday morning the process of serving diets in B Ward is that the cooked things are brought from the kitchen by patients under the supervision of an attendant which in turn is transferred to pans placed in a large tray with handles and carried by two patients one in front and the other in the rear, and attendant keeps up with it and hands it out on both sides to patients who are made to sit along both sides of the lane.
The patient would at times sneak up and grab a diet but would be chased and captured and the diet taken away by an attendant and he, the patient, would be locked in a cell for the period. There he would be served his meal with a caution. There are patients who grab from other patients and are generally caught and locked away. If there action become very habitual they are locked away during meal hours. There is another class of patients who are in the habit of either having away their diets or exchanging it for tobacco. These are locked away and fed in cells likewise, in order to stop their habits A patient that is visited by relatives is taken out to the waiting room as soon as he is announced where he receives whatever is brought for him. If it be things to be eaten he eats it there, he is also allowed to receive small coins up to 2/– which he can used to buy things at the canteen.
I uncovered a few new photos of Rico while looking through Star Newspaper archives this week. I thought I’d share them with you. Rico was so much more than a trombonist for The Specials, as many of the obituaries I’ve read seem to forget. Here are some visions of Rico from the past, though his spirit and music will live forever.
The above article reads, “Rico is one of the most improved local musicians in the history of the profession. He brings back a literally dead instrument (the trombone) [see, even back then they misunderstood the meaning of the word literally! Feel like I’m talking to a teenager] on the market. Rico walked into the local recording industry with his trombone and has astonished most local musicians and music lovers who didn’t know the trombone could have taken top place on the local Rock ‘N’ Roll recording industry. Rico Rodriguez, unlike Taddy Mowatt, top bass player who was introduced to local audiences by Baba Motta, had no introduction. He came in this profession when local musicians and audiences refused to recognize the trombone. In fact, three of our excellent trombonists, Carl Masters, John Nelson and Ruby Anderson, put down the trombone to learn other instruments so that they could remain in the musical field. Rico’s music can be heard on nearly every local recording. He has over one hundred records on the local market and he is enjoying a wide range of popularity. This twenty-two-year-old musician earned the top place on his instrument this year, because he took time to study the trombone. It can be admitted that he experienced many trials and disappointments in his struggle for fame, but as he said, ‘where ever I go to play today, the people love me and give me all the ovation I need.'” — Micky O’ Bryan.
It is interesting to note the omission of Don Drummond from this article, and one can only speculate why. The writer of this article, O’Bryan, was himself a musician, a saxophonist and leader of his own band. Could that be a factor? Also, Don Drummond wasn’t playing anywhere live during this time, perhaps in Bellevue. Could that be a factor? Interesting to consider.
I was so sad to learn this morning that Rico Rodriguez has died. He was one of the sweetest men I’ve ever had the pleasure of talking to and had a genuine warm spirit and immeasurable talent. The world is a better place because of the talent and joy that Rico gave to all of us, his fans.
Emmanuel Rodriguez, also known as Rico, Reco, or El Reco, was born on October 17, 1934 and he spent his entire life dedicated to music. I interviewed Rico a number of times over the phone, about his career, his relationship with Don Drummond, and his days at Alpha Boys School. Here’s a bit of our conversation from 2011 that have been excerpted from my book, Don Drummond: The Genius and Tragedy of the World’s Greatest Trombonist.
Rico says he came to Alpha Boys School at the behest of his mother, Amy. “My mother think that I need some correction, you know? She was working. I used to go down to the waterfront. It was rough. Rough,” says Rico. So instead of going to school, Rico went to the docks to hustle for money from the sailors who came into port. When he got hit by a car and was seriously injured, Rico’s mother had him sent to Alpha, afraid for his safety and life. He says that he tried many trades at Alpha before finding music as his occupation. “The first job I did in Alpha was in the garden. We didn’t have a jet, a jet-type to water the garden. We used to take a paint pan and dip it into a hole for the water. We used to catch the water and water the plants like that. And sometime you eat what you grow, carrot, beet root, the onions and everyting, you know? I used to go to the pottery too, learn to make brick and pot, with clay, with clay, yea. And to get that special shine into the clay you have to use horse dung and lead and then when it goes into the kiln it shines in the pot, but I used to be in the garden most of the time. It wasn’t easy to get into the band. I tried, but I get in because I have a few friends in the band, like Don Drummond and Tony Brown and Ossie Hall, a few good friends in the band. They take me in and I decide to do horns, horns. F horns, F horns. I used to play that thing and you just play ‘pop pop pop pop,’ you know? I did a lot of different instruments before. A little trumpet and saxophones, there were two saxophones. The most things they had at school was clarinet and trumpet. Trombones were full so I didn’t go on trombone. The bandmaster [Reuben Delgado] was very good at it, you know. Anyone who come out of that teaching was brilliant. He was the bandmaster, the bandmaster, so him keep the show. Delgado was the man in charge and the bigger ones look after us.”
One of the bigger ones who looked after Rico was Don Drummond. Rico told me, “I met him in the band and he was an excellent player and he show me things. He was a little bit quiet, you know? A very very quiet person. You don’t know what he’s going to do next, you know? Not like a lot of others, he was a quiet man. He don’t talk a lot, quiet. He was my friend, my friend. Through the bandmaster and on account of the band, he was a trombone teacher, you know? He write some different things we used to play and so forth, so there is always someone from the band that can teach you something. When he write the music he get you to come and sit with you and play the music with you. He taught me the double tongue and things like that, yea, different styles. Don was first trombone. And I was a learner, a learner (laughs). I’m a student. I’m a new player in the band at that time. I used to take his stand in his practice. When the band goes out I carry his stand, music stand, carry the music for him. The ones who were more advanced show the ones who were not so advanced. He used to give me some scales to study, one or two scales for the day and he would see how I was getting on. He show me everything. He’d play the scale and show me before so I get the feel, you know? He was tough on me, tough on me. He told me, ‘If you want to be a musician you have to take everything seriously and practice.’ He was okay with me. He was a friend, a friendly-type of person.”
After his time at Alpha, Rico performed in a number of bands around Kingston and on a number of recordings in the studios at the birth of the recording industry. He spent time in the Wareika Hills with his fellow musicians and Rastas and entitled his first album in 1976, “Man from Wareika.” He talked to me about his time in the hills.
“Count Ossie was like a chief. He was like a chief in the hills. Everyone look up to him. Once he told me he wanted to learn trumpet but he was more into the drums, so he played the drums instead of the trumpet. A lot of Rastas around and I used to go home. I used to go home. We go away and play and I don’t go back to my mother’s house no more until I’m ready to come to England. I was leaving from Wareika Hills to come to England. Some of us stay in Wareika Hills. It was safe there. We cook and eat and they had Wareika school for the children to teach them about history. Communication everyday was about prayers, psalms and we chant psalms and play instruments. No really bed, just makeshift, yeah. Rough living, you know? No house, shelter, sheltered place. Everybody lived in stiffs, a variety of stiffs, you know? But it was a community. We play music all day, all day, all day and night. When we go, he [Don Drummond] used to tell me, ‘Don’t play man, just listen. Don’t play, just listen to me.’ Sometimes I get to play with him sometimes. Listening to Drummond gave me a much deeper opportunity to hear it. Not being in a band, just free playing. I am happy to have heard him playing the trombone with the drums around him, more than anything else. He was a Rasta in the Wareika Hills, so I went. I used to go up there and look for them, you know, if Drummond was one of the trombone players, so I just go and look for him and he could give me a good ting or two. When we go to Wareika Hills we used to play together. Sometimes he was so busy I don’t wait for him. Sometimes he call me to go play with him. And when I go up to Wareika then I used to go home, you know? And he said to me, ‘Rico mon, you see this area? Come up.’ And when he used to tell me that, I stay at Wareika and I don’t leave until I leave for England. I never leave that year until I was coming to England. He was a good man. He was so excellent, he was so good that I want to be as good as him so I work real hard, reading and so forth, writing. When he write the music, he get you to come and sit with you and play the music with you. Drummond was a quiet person, but he was my very good friend, you know? I held his music stand fe him. Whenever he wrote any music he always call me to come play it with him, you know? He was a very good person. He was a very good person. He always come and pick me up to go and practice with him, you know? And sometimes I didn’t have a trombone and I used to go and borrow his trombone. But sometime he don’t want to lend me. Before he give me he always shine it up. ‘Look after this and bring it back.’ I didn’t have one, he used to lend me his.”
Today, we lost a member of our band and although it is a sad day, we celebrate the music of this incredible legend.